Whenever you listen to music you are playing a game of association. Constantly. Listen to Pulp, relive an experience, listen to Talk Talk, relive another. A specific key or tone might elicit an emotional response whenever you hear it. Perhaps on first listen, you enjoyed the music for the sake of the music, but associations are bound to happen, irregardless.
If you view an album as your favorite due to nostalgic reasons – memories – is it possible to see beyond the memory to the music? Can you obscure your perception of the album to the point where it is no longer a sonic experience, but a personal one? Yes. And this is what makes certain groups and certain albums so powerful, because it’s likely that you are not the only one who feels this personal, visceral connection.
It could be because of the music itself, or it could be because of the message that it conveys. Or it could be due to the musicians themselves, and what they stand for. Morrissey is a prime example. This was his first solo concert, within 6 months of the Smiths’ disbandment. It was a free concert, the only entrance requirement was that you wear a Smiths shirt. And just look at the devotion. Look at the raw, unrestrained passion of the fans. And somehow, 20+ years on, he is still creating this fervent reaction in even new fans. Yet this is not so in older fans. Why?
If you listen to the music of your youth, you will be reminded of your youth. Once you reach a certain age, the music you listened to in adolescence is no longer revolutionary, the associations change, and the message it carried to your younger self ceases to be relevant. The music becomes a form of nostalgia rather than a lifestyle.
Listening to music to feel nostalgic means that music is no longer about the sonic experience. As we age, we need to find new musicians with fresh messages and relevant content. Musicians fade in and out of our lives as we grow old in a very organic way. Music that elicits real passion in a listener is likely associated in some way to their personal life, be it in memory or in feeling. It is this process of association that allows for a truly meaningful connection to the music you listen to.